Nigerians aged 35 and above are unlikely to have problems recalling what constituted our entertainment staple before 1993. It broadly consisted of movie releases at 10pm after the news bulletin on national or state-owned television, blockbuster movies on video cassette recorders, old Latin American soaps and dramas, recorded matches of the Premier League and for the children, cartoons early in the evening. Each, I have to say, fulfilled its role. Then came satellite TV in the name of MultiChoice Nigeria to change the future of television.
A quarter of a century later, MultiChoice has grown to become a household name and a lifestyle choice in the country, bringing entertainment and information to millions of homes, cutting across different ages and cultures, as well as making huge contributions to the nation’s economy via huge investments.
Television, it is safe to say, has never been more powerful since November 1993 when MultiChoice landed on these shores.
How did the company succeed in causing a sea change in the television sector, where it has remained the dominant operator? Given where we were at the time MultiChoice commenced operations in the country, I would say the company showed enormous faith in Nigeria, was committed to providing high quality pay television service through investments in cutting-edge technology, content and service to kick off a revolution.
MultiChoice came into the country at a time of great political upheaval and uncertainty induced by the annulment of the 1993 presidential election, a period the country was, with some justification, avoided like a plague. The foul socio-political weather aside, there was the huge infrastructural deficit in the country, a state of affairs that required a pioneer to provide for its own needs. This required eye-watering financial investments and near-blind faith in a climate of political uncertainty.
Notable among investments made in infrastructure were the commissioning of the Eutelsat satellite at a cost of N1.3 billion for the provision of the KU-Band transmission service, having a spot-beam with Nigeria at its epicenter; building of the Lagos up-link to enable the carriage of the national free-to air channels, yearly expansion of satellite transponder capacity for the continuing carriage of these free-to-air channels as well as backhaul of the channels to the company’s facilities in Guadalajara in Spain at no cost to the channel providers.
MultiChoice, over the years, has continued to invest heavily in the latest technology in digital television, including its decoders, which it has consistently improved upon, new products, improved services and new payment systems.
The company has also been the leading figure in the country’s efforts to migrate from analogue to digital transmission being the first two introduce the second generation broadcast technology through its GOtv platform.
The launch of new technologies has contributed to the efforts of the government to create quality employment in the engineering and technical fields.
Through its products, MultiChoice has demonstrated commitment to Nigeria’s progress by ramping up its investment in local content. This has been variously demonstrated by SuperSports in increasing interest to solicit local content for programming and support for Nigerian boxing through GOtv Boxing Night to mention just a few. The entertainment industry owes a large slice of its progress to support for MultiChoice, whose Africa Magic range of channels has established the country’s cultural hegemony by providing local artistes and producers the platform to showcase their talents to millions of viewers across the continent.
And to ensure an improvement in production quality, MultiChoice has continued to invest in various capacity building efforts for professionals in the creative content industry. The latest of these efforts is the MultiChoice Talent Factory initiative, which is aimed at raising the next crop of African film and television professionals by equipping them with skills capable of putting them on the same level with their counterparts in other parts of the world. A major element of the initiative is the MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy, a fully-funded one-year training programme for young people in the creative industry. The continent-wide initiative has three academies, with the one for West Africa located in Nigeria.
The company has, in addition to providing family entertainment, continued to contribute to the country’s social and economic development through the creation of job opportunities via local entrepreneurship schemes in dealership, training of a network of installers to assist in the installation of DStv and GOtv hardware as well as resolution of issues associated with the products.
On the Corporate Social Investment front, MultiChoice has invested a huge amount of resources in the rollout of over 300 MultiChoice Resource Centres in secondary schools in 29 states of the country. Each beneficiary school receives a TV set, High Definition Personal Video Recorder Decoder, generating set, complimentary subscription to DStv education bouquet, which contains BBC World, BBC Knowledge, National Geography, Animal Planet, National Geography Wild, History Channel, Learn and ED channel, as well as facilities such as chairs and tables.
Equally importantly, the company has been a good corporate citizen, paying about 10 different tax types to government.
Badru, a business analyst, writes from Suleja, Niger State.